Best Things to See and Do in Hilo, Hawaii

Friday July 1, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 3 Comments

"Hilo Farmers Market"

Looking for Big Island Local Cuisine? Check out Hilo Farmers Market

Similar to Rodney Dangerfield, Hilo, on Hawaii’s Big Island, sometimes gets no respect. People pass up a visit to Hilo for a trip to Kona on the Big Island. I was recently in Hilo, Hawaii for a holiday weekend as United Airlines is offering non-stop flights from San Francisco International Airport  (SFO) to Hilo, Hawaii.  If this is your first time visiting Hilo, I’ll share my “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Hilo.

When I have a visitor from out of town, I take them to Rainbow Falls. Everyone’s first look at Hilo should be this beautiful waterfall not far from downtown, up Waianuenue Avenue (Waianuenue means Rainbow in Hawaiian). Go at the right time in the morning and maybe you’ll see the rainbow that forms at the bottom of the falls.

If you are looking for Big Island, local cuisine, I recommend The Hilo Farmers Market. I like to graze my way through different types of food, starting off with coconut juice served “in the nut” with a straw, and finishing off with green papaya salad from Ratana’s Green Papaya Salad. The Spam musubi (only $1.25) is something else too. Not to mention the aisles & aisles of exotic tropical fruits like rambutan, jackfruit, strawberry papayas, apple bananas  and poha berries.

Ratanas Food Cart "Hilo Farmers Market" travel, Hawaii

Ratanas Food Cart is a must visit at the Hilo Farmers Market in Hawaii

Looking for a quiet place to escape and unplug, check out Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 333,000 acres of pure Hawaiian nature. One of the few places you can hear the joyous songs of native forest birds like apapane. Don’t forget to bring water and a jacket. When I visited it was windy!

When you come to Hilo get your picture taken at Jaggar Museum, at the Halemaumau Crater overlook. Halemaumau is the home of Pele the volcano goddess, and her home has been erupting since 2008. A beautiful mystical plume of gas and ash is wafting into the sky, making a dramatic backdrop. If you’re lucky, you can see the glow from the lava lake below the surface after dark.

The best item on the menu at Restaurant Hilo Bay Cafe, is the Blue Bay Burger. Local grass-fed beef fed topped with Gorgonzola. Or any of the fresh island fish specials. MMMM!

Seeing a lot of colorful tropical flowers? Hilo is best known for its rich volcanic soil, perfect for growing orchids, anthuriums, ginger and other gorgeous tropical flowers, And fruits. Visit Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. Director James Cameron and the animators from the movie Avatar came here to be inspired!

Looking for cheap food in Hilo, besides the Farmers Market,  Café 100 on Kilauea Avenue has amazing history and is everyone’s favorite place to grab plate lunch or loco moco.

"Onomea Falls" "Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden"

Visit Onomea Falls in Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden or Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii

For fine dining with a local and organic push, nothing is better than Hilo Bay Café. Fresh fish specials, signature martinis and much more.

In Hilo, take your picture with Namaste, the white Bengal tiger at Hilo’s Panaewa Zoo!

The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Hilo, really great views of downtown and the coast/ocean from Imiloa Astronomy Center , which looks down on them. And Hilo Bay views are incredibly beautiful from Queen Liliuokalani Park, you can see snow-capped Maunakea in winter.

Summit and lower levels of Maunakea offeres great views of Maunaloa, Hualalai and Halekaka (Maui) mountains, and is the best place in the world to go stargazing. Book a guided tour or drive on your own. But unless you have a 4WD you can’t go past the Visitors Center at 9300 feet. The vc offers FREE guided stargazing every night! It gets really cold  so be sure to back warm clothes.

"Donald Pascual" "Paani Ranch" horseback ride

Go horseback riding in Hilo, Hawaii at Pa’ani Ranch with owner Donald Pascual

In Hilo outdoor enthusiasts will want to hike Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea Iki,  horseback ride at Paani Ranch in Mountain View and  surf or SUP at Honolii Beach in Hilo.

Looking for a little exercise? Walk along  Hilo Bayfront’s black sand beach and along Banyan Drive and Queen Liliuokalani Park or all of them if you need a lot of exercise.

If you are a museum lover, Hilo’s best museums are Imiloa Astronomy Center and Lyman Museum and Pacific Tsunami Museum

Enjoy a night out on the town? For a night of dancing, go to Hilo’s 100 %  Moxies on Kinoole Street.

Ken’s House of Pancakes is the spot for late night dining. It’s open 24 hours a day, and their saimin, served with a generous side of Chinese hot mustard, hits the spot!

The  Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 50 cents daily/ $1 on Sundays will keep you posted on what’s happening in Hilo. They even have an events section on Saturdays to keep you on top of everything happening around town, and there’s plenty! Also Big Island Weekly, a free weekly alternative paper is another must-grab.

You can tell a lot about Hilo from visiting  Palace Theatre and watching a Hawaiian music performance.

In the spring you should attend  the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, which starts Easter Sunday and lasts a week. Tickets to the final competitons are snatched up a six months ahead of time, so register online early for tickets, or if you don’t get any, don’t fret, there’s a week’s worth of free festivals, events and performances throughout Hilo.

In the summer you should attend Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s annual Hawaiian cultural festival.

"Filthy Farmgirl Soaps" "Hilo Farmers Market" travel, hawaii

Filthy Farmgirl Soaps -Fun gifts to bring back from Hilo, Hawaii

Did you know that Hilo is known for Polynesian navigation and wayfinding? Plan a visit on the fall. Imiloa Astronomy Center’s week long events around this in the fall.

Come to Hilo for whale watching and seeing “snow in Hawaii” on top of Maunakea and Maunaloa  in the winter.

Go to Puff City in downtown Hilo on Kilauea Avenue for a great breakfast treat or coffee.

Just outside of  Hilo you can visit Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and have lunch at What’s Shakin’

The best way to see Hilo is to walk – especially downtown Hilo and the Queen Liliuokalani Park/Banyan Drive area.

Don’t miss Panaewa Rainforest Zoo if  you have kids traveling with you.

What are your favorite things to do in Hilo, Hawaii?

Thanks to Big Island Visitors Bureau and Jessica Ferracane  for assistance with this post. You may also follow the Hawaiian Island on Twitter or become a Facebook Fan of Hawaii. I was a guest of Big Island Visitors Bureau. Article, YouTube video and photos by Nancy D. Brown

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Camel Ride, Swim with Whale Sharks – Things to Do in Los Cabos, Mexico

Friday June 24, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 1 Comment


Camel Safari Tour, Los Cabos, Mexico, travel

Located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, at the very point where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, Los Cabos, Mexico is a destination that offers land and sea adventures.

Outback & Camel Safari Tour offers travelers a unique way to explore the Baja outback, complete with a beachside camel ride along the San Cristobal coastline. Brought to Los Cabos specifically for this new excursion, the camels have been trained by Sidi-Amar Taou of the Bedouin tribe of Niger, one of the last Nomadic tribes in existence. Approximately four hours in length, the tour also features a walking tour of the desert, where a guide educates the group on the native vegetation, flora and fauna of Baja Sur. The trip concludes with a traditional Mexican meal, complete with handmade tortillas, mole chicken, salsa and a tequila tasting.


whale sharks, los cabos, mexico, swim,

Swim with whale sharks in Los Cabos, Mexico


Swim with Whale Sharks in Los Cabos, Mexico

For the latest underwater excursion, Cabo Expeditions,  offers a chance for animal lovers and adventure-seekers to swim with the whale sharks. Whale sharks, known as “Gentle Giants of the Sea,” are the largest fish in the world. This  experience allows travelers to get up close and personal with these  creatures. Lasting a total of eight hours, this  tour includes round trip transportation from Los Cabos to La Paz Bay, bilingual and certified captains, marine biologists, federally licensed guides and a spotter plane to help find the best place to locate the whale sharks in their feeding grounds.

Each tour allows a maximum of 10 people  and currently runs daily from January through June. Check website for details.


whale shark, scuba dive, los cabos, mexico

Scuba Divers swim next to a whale shark in Los Cabos, Mexico




If You Go:

Los Cabos, Mexico

Follow @LOSCABOSCVB on Twitter and Nancy D. Brown on Twitter for all things travel-related.

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Photos courtesy of Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Sanuk Footwear Travel Gear Review

Friday June 17, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 1 Comment

"Sanuk" sandals "Nancy D. Brown"

Sanuk Yogi II Sandals made from Yoga mat – Travel Gear Review

Play Footwear Word Game

Let’s play a word association game. It goes like this:

B is for Birkenstock = hippie sandal footwear

C is for Cowboy boot = hipster footwear

D is for dancer – ballerina flats

M is for Manolo Blahnik = fashionista footwear

N is for Nike = athletic footwear

S is for Sanuk – surfer dude flip flops, beach and surf sandal footwear

"Sanuk" surfer sandal "Nancy D. Brown

Sanuk Donny Sidewalk Surfer Sandal – Travel Gear Review

Baby Boomer likes hip surfer sandals

So why is a boomer travel writer (that should clue you in on my age) sporting a pair of Donny Sanuk sidewalk surfer sandals? These surfer shoes are comfortable. I wore them on a trip to Los Cabos, Mexico while I was reviewing the upscale Marquis Los Cabos Resort. Turns out that my private butler at Marquis Los Cabos – I told you this place was swanky – enjoys surfing when he is not working. He, too, has a pair of Sanuks.

I asked him how a private butler from Los Cabos, Mexico knew about Southern California-based Sanuk beach and surf sandals. He shared with me that he read about Sanuk sandals in surf magazines.

Sanuk footwear – the  ideal beach travel shoe

My Sanuk flip flops – made from real yoga mats – and Donny sidewalk surfer sandals are the perfect travel gear. They are lightweight, easy to pack and the Sanuk sandals dress up attire when flip flops are not enough.

Did I mention that Sanuk is the Thai word for fun? And who doesn’t like fun? The folks at Sanuk believe in giving back and sponsor surfers and rock climbers.  You may follow Sanuk on Twitter @SanukFootwear and follow Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter, too.

"Sanuk" "Sandals" "Nancy D. Brown" footwear

No flowers gave their life during this travel gear review of Sanuk Flip Flops

If You Go:

Pack your Sanuk footwear. They pack flat and don’t take up much room. Better yet, wear them on the airplane. They slip on and off easily going through airport security and while you are seated on the airplane.

Sanuk supplied me with this travel gear for review.

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